Archive for April, 2006

McMansions and the (Extended) Family of Tomorrow (April 24, 2006)

Posted in Economics, Housing, Society on April 24, 2006 by

McMansions are littering the landscape.  Monoliths that consume space and resources.  Some McStructures are not even finished on the inside because the goal is to loom large when viewed from the outside.  “Potemkin Estates.”  The larger structures demand increasingly expensive hvac systems (heating ventilation and air conditioning systems).      

Kids are returning home, with and without jobs, and flopping in their former bedroom or on the couch in the basement.  They are “failing to launch.”  The kids can’t afford a home even if they can find a job.  Some parents charge rent or require contributions for food and utilities.  This relationship may develop into a permanent and positive lifestyle.  Extended families may pool their talents and grow old together in one mega-structure.  One sibling may be a single parent; the others can help raise the kids/grandkids.  One sibling may go and come at unusual times to juggle two part-time jobs in the craven new economy.  There will be no retirement, no social security, and no long-term health care, so the kids will be expected to take care of their parents in this assisted-living situation.  The home theater room will be remodeled into another bedroom.  Situation comedies (tragedies?) on the tv relocated to its traditional home in the den will chronicle the exploits of the new mega-nuclear family.  The McMansion could bring families together in unexpected ways.

The Virtues of an Iraqi Civil War (April 17, 2006)

Posted in Bush, Iraq, Military on April 17, 2006 by

The United States was not required to engage in a domestic dispute war in 1860.  The Union forces could have prevented the expansion of slavery in the West by establishing garrisons along the border between the slave-holding states and the frontier.  The Navy could have embargoed trade with the South on the seas to the east and in the area now known as the Gulf of Mexico while also protecting other legitimate commerce and asserting the young nation’s sovereignty.  The South would have withered in a dozen years rather than being obliterated in four.  However, a President really only has the four-year term to resolve the matter.  The Union elected to “destroy the village in order to save it.”  A civil war defines a people.  The War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression or however it is described is one of the major events that defined America and its people.  There are some who are still fighting the conflict.

“Over values men will fight.”  This rallying cry was shouted not by Ernesto “Che” Guevara but by Milton “Free Market” Friedman, the great contemporary conservative economist and philosopher.  The peoples in the present country of Iraq may elect to fight to determine their borders, their identities and their values.  There may be many deaths.  Men fighting over values often kill.  The killing is often unfair, random, ruthless, and indiscriminate.  The men kill far too many women and children.  The tumult is spreading over the region.  The Shiites in Iraq may ally with the Shiites in Iran.  Others may join the fray.  The United States can only make the situation worse.  

The Iraqi peoples need to determine their destiny without American involvement and meddling.  The United States should not play policeman or baby sitter.  The Iraqi people must determine their fate.  Support our troops . . . return . . . now.     

“A Man’s Home Is His Gated Community” (April 10, 2006)

Posted in Housing, Law, Society, Supreme Court on April 10, 2006 by

“A man’s home is his castle.”  This maxim reflects a fundamental social and economic compact in Anglo-American law.  All of us agree to treat each other’s home as if it were a castle which frees each of us to do something more productive than to defend one’s home 24/7/365.  A land of fortified castles is far less efficient and creative than a land of homes and businesses respected by all of us.

The recent Supreme Court case of Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. ___ (2006), threatened to depart in a small way from this cornerstone of the Constitution.  The Court addressed whether the police can search a home without a warrant when one occupant gives consent but another objects.  The wife allowed the police to enter and search the home despite the objection of her husband who co-inhabited the residence.  Other prior cases had allowed the police to enter if consent was given by the one inhabitant who was present.  By a 5 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court rejected the search as unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment and invalid as to him.  A man’s and a woman’s home is their castle not just his or her castle.

Some of those who are concerned about crime seek to expand the “castle doctrine,” a corollary to the “castle rule” that allows a person to use force including deadly force to protect oneself and others from attack.  There is a countervailing “duty to retreat” under some circumstances.  The “castle doctrine” has been expanding in recent years to allow one to pursue a possible assailant.  The legislatures and courts must balance these concerns with care.

Gated communities are expanding in many regions of the Republic.  The communities represent a rejection of the “castle compact” and a return to castles with gates and guards rather than draw bridges and moats.  The denizens have their own private McFortress within the larger compound.  They send their kids to private schools in equally guarded enclaves detached from the public.  Their shelters shelter them from ordinary activities.  The reaction is not entirely surprising in the face of criminal activity.  However, the moated communities are changing the landscape and lifestyle of America.

The Arithmetic of Hope (April 3, 2006)

Posted in Economics, PATRIOT Act, Politics, USA PATRIOT Act on April 3, 2006 by

1 Senator voted against the UnPatriot Act when it was initially passed.

36 Senators voted against the nomination of Alberto Gonzales.

44 senators voted against the nomination of Samuel Alito.

48 Senators voted against increasing the debt ceiling to nine (9) Trillion dollars.

(On August 7, 1964, 2 Senators voted against the “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution,” Ernest Gruening of Alaska and Wayne Morse of Oregon.)